The Mobicel success story is not very well known. Suffice to say that, in a market that’s notoriously hard to break into, this brand now appears on the shelves of all South Africa’s biggest retailers. For the most part, it achieved that by making its phones robust, reliable and, above all, affordable. Of course, there is a lot more competition around the R1 000 mark than ever before, including several models from Nokia, Huawei and Hisense, but Mobicel has now become a top-selling phone brand in SA, behind Samsung.
Mobicel Trendy 2
The Trendy 2 is its latest offering and certainly feels tough in hand. The plastic back cover has a funky metallic finish and is fully removable, as is the battery. The screen is bright enough, important for viewing in daylight, but relatively low resolution.
In terms of processing power, the Trendy 2 is clearly not designed for gaming, for watching videos or for loading up large or complex apps. This is the perfect phone for a user with basic communication needs: some voice calls, some text messaging and perhaps sharing the occasional snapshot. It will happily play music, of course, thanks to the microSD slot. It’s important to recognise that this is a great phone for an entry-level smartphone user. If you’ve used any recent mid-range smartphone, you will find yourself making some unfair comparisons and getting infinitely frustrated at the performance limitations of this one.
5,45″ screen, 1 GB RAM, 2 MP front/5 MP rear camera, 8 GB storage, microSD slot, R900
Both these Mobicel phones use a micro SIM card, an awkward size between the traditional mini SIM and the current nano SIM.
The Hype has been a strong seller for Mobicel. It sports a much better camera than the Trendy 2 and a bigger screen, although screen resolution is still quite low. Like the Trendy 2, it uses Android’s Go operating system, which uses lighter, leaner versions of Google’s main apps, which are not as full featured as their regular versions. It’s got a metallic-looking plastic back cover and a relatively small 2 800 mAh battery that still lasted a full day for us. Unfortunately, we found the Trendy 2, above, delivered a better all-round performance than the Hype, which had a few hiccups. Some apps simply refused to load and some Bluetooth devices had trouble connecting no matter how we coaxed it. In general, phones with 1 GB of RAM and 8 GB of storage are strictly for entry-level users, and that is definitely the case here.
5.99″ screen, 1 GB RAM, 5 MP front/13 MP rear camera, 8 GB storage, microSD slot, R1 600
While both phones feel great to handle and the build quality seems satisfactory, it’s much harder to project how Mobicel phones will perform over time compared with similarly priced offerings from big-brand competitors. Thus far, South Africans seem to put their faith in the brand and are voting with their wallets.